Web Design, SEO, Graphic Design Blog

What is the Best Responsive CSS Framework According to Web Developers?

Local Web Design in Calgary & Area: CSS Frameworks

We came across this a great article about grid systems in relation to a CSS framework. This is a core area for designers as it can greatly streamline the users’ experiences of the Web site design across multiple platforms and screen resolutions. Responsive design is key to a fluid, inclusive and easy-to-manage Web site for yourself or your clients.

A grid system, or a CSS framework, is mostly used by web developers who are new to responsive design. Besides these ‘newbies’, there are also more experienced web developers who use grid systems or CSS frameworks because they want to save time, don’t want to write the same codes from scratch time after time, or don’t want the cross-browser/-device concerns and just want to be sure the website displays great on all computers and devices.

As you probably noticed in the previous paragraph, there are many terminologies used to describe frameworks and grids that can be used to easily create a responsive website. The most terms to describe these frameworks and grids are: Grid system, CSS grid, CSS framework, front end framework, UI framework, and responsive framework. At first hand, they all might sound the same, but if you do some investigation, you’ll find out that frameworks can be divided into two categories, the grid systems and the complete CSS frameworks.

From the article “The best responsive CSS frameworks according to 41 developers” on https://psdtowp.net/

A lot of us have heard of bootstrap, but did you know there is another framework that is as popular among web developers?

Check out this video that pits Bootstrap against Foundation:

Read more about BlindDrop’s Web development services. Please feel free to contact us with any questions regarding Calgary Web design, marketing and promotion.

Turn Your Website into A Web Presence!

How Can You Turn a Website into A Web Presence?
By Lucas Arnatt, Web Designer

A website is, by definition, a singular online entity. It has a unique address, localized navigation, some kind of Web design surrounding the site content and is, for all intents and purposes, a standalone resource. The general practice of website development from the 1990’s into the new millennium was to create a website as a digitalized, online version of a company brochure. In fact, a lot of companies simply copied their brochure content over from print to their new site. Of course, the Web evolves quickly and so do search engines and marketing techniques. Combine this with more advanced dynamic functionalities become more affordable or even free, the basic Web site can easily get lost or outdated.
What are some signs of an outdated Web site?

  1. Dated Design – most designers now build for a 1024 pixel screen resolution, and since older sites were built to an 800 pixel wide screen width, just seeing one built to this width can create the impression of an older design. Dated designs are also subject to much less functionality since they are based on a more limited technology.
  2. Dated or Stagnant Content – probably most obvious is content that is “old news” or last updated a year or two ago. This goes for broken external links to other sites that no longer exist…or have been updated.
  3. Dated copyright Notice – enough said.
  4. Little or No Communication Functionality – older sites rely on email and maybe forms, which is all good as they are keys of communication. However, newer sites can now offer “Live Support”, forums and interactive flash media to their gamut.
  5. Little or No Search Engine Marketing – chances are if the site is not updated regularly or built to newer standards the owners aren’t going to be out promoting it. This includes Search Engine Optimization and/or online ad campaigns.

So, if you have a website that sounds like this, you will want to read on to see how to turn your Web site into a Web presence.
The difference in a Web presence is the difference between the wall flower at a party and the chain of people doing the conga around the entire room to the beat of the music.
A Web presence is alive, it adapts, expands, gets attention and gets people looking. It goes to the beat of the lights and sounds of the party and obstacles that are in the way, just make the conga line more interesting! A Web presence is a living entity because it involves people; those who started it, those who join it and those who just enjoy watching it. As for the conga line there’s always the few in the line who call “C’mon!” encouraging others to join in. Those would be the affiliates! J
To take your current Website or if you are planning a new Website from scratch, you must consider the following key features to make your site a true online presence:

The site itself:

  1. Have a unique design that is clean, professional and eye-catching, but does not inhibit the navigation nor the accessibility or flow of content.
  2. The design should not limit expansion, but encourage it – it should easily be able to have new pages and functionalities added. Consider the nature of a blog or forum – these encourage new content and are made to expand with it.
  3. A Well Planned Navigation and site flow are needed to define which sections are passive, which are active, which functionalities are dynamic or static and which areas are most likely to expand. Ideal navigation will allow for the user to access any page from any page, with minimal clicks. Clear logical grouping of content into section/page/subpage is key.
  4. Have unique content that is written for the Web, not just transferred from a Print document or technical paper. You can make these documents into White Papers or single PDFs for downloading, but the general content on the site needs to be Web-ified and Search Engine Optimized.
  5. Add Reasonable Functionality – you don’t need an “Live Online Support” function if you don’t plan to use it. Determine who will do the site updates, either the Webmaster or someone who can be trained to use a CMS (Content Management System). If you have a portfolio, use a dynamic gallery to show it off. If you want a blog, make sure you understand how to use it properly. If you want to start e-commerce, be prepared to learn how to manage the catalog and admin areas.
  6. Search Engine Optimization – starts with the organic results generated by how the site is built, how accessible it and its content is, and how it relates to other websites. Then get your site manually listed in the top search engines and directories and start building reciprocal or back links to your site to help increase exposure and build popularity.

Once the site is live, you will need to:

  1. Continually review and develop effective Search Engine Optimization
  2. Expand into e-commerce, so your site can make money for you.
  3. Start to develop targeted ads using CPC paid listing campaigns like Adwords, Adbrite, etc.
  4. Collect Information about your visitors using Opt-in newsletters and special offers.
  5. Get feedback whenever possible from your visitors.
  6. Make your site as interactive and personal as possible.
  7. Explore how to use other channels (print, mobile, radio, networking) to elevate your Web presence even more.
  8. Update your content regularly and get involved in posting to othe sites, blogs and groups.

A Web presence is more powerful and successful than a website because it has people actively involved in these key areas.
A website is good as a channel for your regular business model, but a Web presence can take your success to a whole new level of communication and separate revenue stream.

For more information about how to revitalize your Web site and turn it into a Web presence, please contact us.

Bring E-commerce to your Website

How to Turn Your Static Web Design into an e-commerce website.

Do you have a static website, that is basically an online brochure?   Perhaps your website was made by a Calgary Web design firm (or another web design company from around the world) , you might be asking yourself how you can make some money from your website.

Is there a fool proof way for you to add e-commerce to your website? You ask.

Yes, there are a few, tried and true ways for you to make money through your basic, static Web site. You don’t need to necessarily rebuild your site if you are happy with the design and content. A website design should hold up for up to five years – after that time a full redesign is definitely recommended.

The simplest way to increase revenue for your Calgary business web site is to increase the targeted traffic coming to your site.  So you can make more money from your existing static website just by focusing on marketing it properly in the search engines, directories and social media . The more unique, targeted visitors to your site looking for your services will virtually guarantee an increase in the profit coming through your website.

But, if you want to take it a step further and make some passive income or streamline your Website’s money making power, just consider these five tips on how to make your Web site a money-maker. These tips are ordered from the most pain-free to the most complex to implement. You can do none, some or all to help increase your website’s income potential.

1. Google Adsense ads – Google Adsense makes this easy to implement. You can choose how much real estate Google can use for its banners. Google Adsense relies on click-throughs, so getting the most traffic to your site will definitely determine how much income is made this way . You can also customize your ads to fit into your Web design so they don’t look so much like a third party presence on your site.

2.Affiliate marketing – Affiliate marketing is a realm of its own, but it does rely on a huge network of websites and lists. To integrate affiliate ads into your site, you can do it simply using their affiliate links and banners. Check out clickbank.com for a great example of the two sides of affiliate marketing: selling product and promoting it. If you have a blog, write an article about the affilate product you are promoting, if you use twitter, tweet your article URL, it all helps.

3. Custom Banner space – So, you’ve got a nice static website, with one Google Adsense space and a growing collection of articles with affilate links . Each month you do some advertising or promotion and tweak your search engine optimization if needed. Now your site is more popular and gaining momentum. To leverage your site’s popularity, you can create a space for your own custom banner ads. You can sell this space by time or thousands of impressions. If you do not have any banner software on your server or website, consider just keeping it simple by selling the space by month. Consider that a prominent banner ad set at $50/month will bring in a steady $600 each year! Find an advertiser who you do not compete with, but who offers your viewers products or services that are an extension of your own.

4. Paid Blog Posts – If you run out of ideas for your popular Web site’s articles, consider accepting third party articles to post on your site or on your blog. Some article networks provide free articles for you to publish just so long as you agree to their terms of use. How does an article that is free bring you money? It brings in money indirectly by increasing traffic to your site. It keeps your content current and viable.

5. Want to make even more money online? Okay, so the next step is to build in an e-commerce catalog. The best scenario is to invest in an e-commerce catalog that integrates into your existing site. It ensures higher customer trust and loyalty, one key need is that transactions are sent by an SSL secured connection. Find an e-commerce catalog that can handle digital downloads, as this type of product really is a perfect product – no overhead, no expiry, no physical inventory to ship. The one step beyond this is to create your own product (remember clickbank.com?) and then you can control reseller rights and product costs from the top down.

6. Okay, here’s a bonus tip – You’ve got a lot going on with your site now! While your site hasn’t drastically changed in how it looks, it is helping more and more to bring revenue your way. It is also getting to be a valuable resource to Web surfers. Now is the time for you to add in a subscriber-based members area where content and services are introduced at different membership levels at a monthly rate. You will need to continually build your Web site content, services and products, but as you’re already on a roll with this, the recurring monthly revenues to your site will be the bonus you’ve been working hard for…and you deserve it.

Lucas Arnatt is the Creative Director of BlindDrop Design Inc. and has been producing Web sites and providing Calgary Web Design services since 1997. BlindDrop serves many local Cochrane and Calgary businesses and organizations. BlindDrop offers a wide variety of services that include Calgary Web design (and SEO), Graphic Design and Photography.

Five Key Ways to Market Your Calgary Business

Here are five fundamental ways to market your business on the web and on the street:

1. Get properly branded – getting a professional logo design is a great start, but it is also critical to plan your branding, which is based on the customer experience and how your company is interpreted by the customer from near and afar. Get a logo and business card at the minimum and during this process work through basic marketing factors such as demographics, culture, sales region and budgeting for advertising.

2. Develop a custom Web presence – Once you have the branding planned and established you can move this onto the Web by getting a custom site that supports your branding and business model. Ideally, you will secure  a domain, website and domain-based email addresses. The site should reflect the corporate identity, provide essential information about your company and also provide service to generate sales. If e-commerce is not a suitable fit for your company’s services, you can use a custom form to direct and define sales, or use an online chat system to connect with your customer directly.

3. Market your Web presence Online – this includes having an active website, email list and any active submissions to groups, help sites or forums. You can also increase traffic and sales by actively managing your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) campaigns each week. Examples of this are commenting on blogs, getting back links to your site and running paid advertisements in search engines and directories. The more focused and niche-based your campaigns are online, the better results you will have. But, keep in mind that you need to research what people are looking for and balance those results with what you’d like them to see.

4. Market your Web presence Offline – this is the only way you can attract people to your online business when they are not at their computer. Look at any magazine from the early 1990’s (if you can find one) and I wager it will be nearly impossible to find ads with web addresses in them. These days classified ads, newspaper ads, posters, uniforms, video, tv, vehicle signage, stationary and pretty much any media channel is used by businesses to promote their Web presence. If your website is e-commerce enabled, then your offline marketing efforts can drive direct sales to your company just by handing out a business card. The customer may never call your number, but they may well purchase something from you with nothing more than a good first impression.

5. Be Consistent and be Professional
– in all cases, whether online or offline, be consistent with your branding and communications. Being professional does not mean being overly conservative, but it does require conscious attention to details. For example, simple typos in an introductory letter or a broken link on your website can detract from the overall image of your company. Make sure you follow your initial branding plan and mission statement and triple-check any published items that cannot be easily changed.

Top 5 Marketing Tips for your Calgary Website

Top 5 Search Engine Optimization & Marketing Tips for your Web Presence

Here we are entering the second decade of the new millennium. The Internet and the World Wide Web keep building and are continually more influential in our business and personal lives. With the advent of “smart phones” and “net books” that allow for compact, mobile access to the Internet we can only expect this access and usage to increase worldwide. Just as cellphones made the anachronistic leap into lesser developed countries in the past decades, it is conceivable that our public wireless network will truly become world-wide and help level the playing ground of world economics and political responsibility.  I hope that technology will bring about that kind of positive change toward individual freedom and expression, rather than create more division and segregation in the world.

Now, change is inevitable and forever constant, Google algorithms show us this, and while it keeps us in the Web development and promotion business hopping, the search engine’s continual rebirth is needed to act as a catalyst for future standards and to keep those abusers at bay. I don’t think that SERPs are out to get us, for example Google’s main focus is to provide the best user experience possible, so when they ditched landing pages from their “in box” to their “out box” it improved user experience overall by acknowledging that there is more to life than making money. Landing pages are a marketer’s money funnel and while the information products that were being sold might be of some use to consumers I can see why Google made this change. Sure, we all need to make money to stay in business and sure we need effective, efficient ways to do so, however, when a marketing technique reaches saturation it will find itself in bullish territory.

Blogging is something I have resisted myself for sometime, for no other reason that it is another commitment in an already busy schedule. However, it is a force to be reckoned with as a part of the growing popularity of social media and also as a marketing tool for business owners. Unfortunately, I have seen a growing trend in blogging where SEO marketing companies are producing blog entries that are choppy, randomized articles that have the keywords, such as “Calgary Web Design” scattered throughout. This technique’s single purpose is to sidestep the “chore” of actually creating unique, useful content in hopes of getting a back link to their client’s site. This is an example of the other end of the marketing funnel – focused landing pages on one end and hazy, randomized blog entries on the other. The former is a hook, the latter a net. As a Calgary and Cochrane Web design company owner and operator, I wouldn’t condone either of these methods for our clients, however they do provide us with a gauge for the extent of manipulation companies are going to in abusing technology to make money. I guess what I am saying is that technology allows us to push its limits, however, we can’t be surprised with SERPs decide that enough is enough.

To this end, I would like to offer five fundamental components for search engine optimization and search engine marketing:

  1. Useful, organic content – Focus on producing unique, organic search results for your main Web presence. This means adding and updating content at a comfortable pace for you. If you think from the visitor’s point of view as to what they would find of value, then you are actually satisfying the SERPs too. At least the ones who define themselves by user experience. A blog is a great way to to this, but not the only way, adding new PDF documents, news articles and channeling relevant RSS feeds work too. Get your site built, or rebuilt, with a CMS (Content Management System) so you can do updates yourself.
  2. Meta tags cannot hurt – at least when done correctly. Research what the current acceptable rate is for Titles, descriptions and keywords and make sure the keywords and search terms reflect the organic content on the page. Make them as unique as possible.
  3. Use Search Engine Friendly URLs where ever possible – again, they work well for visitors as they do for search engine indexing. Since many websites are database-driven, this feature is becoming more and more popular and necessary.
  4. Get steady back links – back links, whether reciprocal or one way will help your site’s popularity, you can help control the search terms used for incoming links to your site by running an ongoing back link campaign on sites that are themselves popular, for instance, those that have a Google page rank equal or greater than your own.
  5. Make friends with Google – Since working with Google seems inevitable, since they represent approximately 70% of online searches, get set up with Google Analytics and submit a Google XML site map. While server stats are good as a default, Google’s webmaster services help open lines of communication between a Web site and those promoting it. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly!

It is good to challenge boundaries, and to test the extent of technology, however we always need to remember that it is people, not statistics or page views, that make the Web go round. People generally only are looking for one thing, whether it is a service or product, when they come to your site, so keeping it real will keep them coming back and not clicking away.